Introduction: Education and Empire: Children, Race and Humanitarianism in the British Settler Colonies

  • Rebecca Swartz
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


The introduction argues that in order to fully understand local educational experiences we must pursue a comparative and connected approach that highlights the connections and divergences between different parts of the Empire. Colonial education was shaped by a number of competing and cooperative discourses, including settler colonialism and humanitarianism. Between emancipation in the 1830s and the 1880s, where the study concludes, there were remarkable changes in thinking about education in Britain and the Empire. Education was increasingly seen as a government responsibility. At the same time, children’s needs came to be seen as different to those of their parents, and childhood was approached as a time to make interventions into Indigenous people’s lives. This period also saw shifts in thinking about race, from a predominantly cultural to a biological understanding of difference.


Settler colonialism Humanitarianism Metropolitan Colonial Education Comparison Archive Missionaries Government Children Schooling 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Swartz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa

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